a/n: I don’t like following the ‘keep your chapters short’ tip, so here’s another long chapter. You’re welcome!
I was a nervous wreck as the car entered Blood Rose territory. For a moment, I’d thought Kiera had gotten lost because we keep descending deeper down the road with nothing but trees and darkness surrounding us, but soon the entrance gate came in view.
Kiera pulled up to the security keypad, but a few patrollers stopped her from entering the code. She rolled down the window as one of them tried to approach my side. Their hard eyes never left me, and the interrogation began.
“Who is that woman in the backseat?”
“Alpha never said anything about a visitor tonight.”
Kiera rolled her eyes, “Lose the attitude, boys. She’s here to see the alpha. He’s expecting her, and he won’t be happy to know that you’re keeping his guest waiting.”
The patrollers gave me one last cold stare before they nodded and let us pass.
“Sorry, alpha Astrid. The security here strictly has a no-nonsense policy when it comes to the guys’ safety. Everyone here, including me, must follow these protocols when entering the pack. Not a lot of people are okay with their existence.”
“It’s Alright. I’m well aware,” I shook my head in understanding, wondering how many intruders in the past have tried to break through the uptight security team.
I planned to converse more with Kiera, but the vast overflowing fountain demanded my attention with its beauty. A woman’s sculpture stood tall at the fountain’s crown, the stone sparkling under the solar lighting. As we got closer, I noticed the golden plaque read ‘In loving memory of Loretta Jane Blackburn.’
Although Loretta’s memorial was beautiful it, wasn’t the jaw-dropper of the place. The real star waited for my arrival ahead.
My mouth fell to the floor as Kiera pulled into the driveway of a lakefront mansion with the tall trees in the background. From the outside, I could see some light through the windows and the top balcony. Noticing my astonished expression, Kiera began explaining how the mansion held six bedrooms, but only Arlo and his younger brother stayed in the home.
Some hell of a home for only two guys.
Kiera dropped me off at the front, waving me goodbye from her window. I glanced up at the mansions beauty once more before I walked up the steps leading to the front door. With a deep faltering breath and shaky hands, I reached for the doorbell. Before I could get the chance to press it, the door swung open, revealing an enthusiastic Arlo.
“You’re here,” Arlo smiled before his eyes drifted down to take in my appearance. I shivered from the darkness in his eyes and the chilly night air. He cleared his throat and moved aside, “Please come in,” He gestured for me.
I deeply inhaled the scent of his musky cologne as I entered the foyer. It instantly birthed the butterflies in my stomach, exciting me and making me nervous all at once. To top it off, he stepped close behind me and took my coat, purposely tracing his fingers down my arms to ignite the sparks.
“You look beautiful,” His deep voice rumbled close to my ear, sending a shiver down my spine.
“Thanks,” I mumbled, avoiding his smoldering gaze. As he stepped back to hang my coat, I got busy looking around. The crystal chandelier hovering over the double staircase caught my eyes with its shimmering effect against the lighting.
“You have a beautiful home.”
He chuckled once, “You haven’t even seen half of it. Come on, I’ll give you a tour,” He offered, taking my hand in his. A small smile crept up my lips from the sparks and his excitement.
I paused halfway upstairs, looking at the two framed pictures of Loretta on the wall. One of the photographs magically moved with life as she was pictured embracing Arlo and his younger brothers. They looked so happy and complete together, unlike how the rumors described their lives to be. The other photographed remained still and looked to be of her younger self.
“This is my mother,” Arlo said, still holding my hand. His voice sounded solemn.
“I recognized her. She was so beautiful,” My response made his brows furrow. Understanding his confusion, I clarified, “My mother has an album full of her pictures. Some of her earliest memories are in it.”
“That’s amazing. These are the only pictures we have left of her. After she passed, many of her things either got ruined or lost.”
The sadness simmering in his eyes tugged at my heart. No amount of magic could bring his mother back to life, but at the least, he should have some of her photos to remember what once was.
“I think my mother said she kept some of her jewelry. I can talk to her about it and ask for some copies of her pictures too. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind giving them to you.”
“I would appreciate that. Thank you,” Arlo smiled, flashing the razor-sharp tips of his canines. I swear my heart melted out of my chest like hot wax from the sight.
Arlo continued to give me a tour around the house, providing details on its history. Kiera was right. The house was massive but comforting. I was most fascinated with the study room, which held many books and portraits of Blood Rose history.
He went down the line and educated me about his predecessors, purposely skipping Jackson Blackburn. I already knew everything about him though it didn’t stop me from reading his description plaque. Even then, he looked ready to kill me in an instant.
Noticing my creeped-out expression, Arlo grabbed my hand and led me to the other rooms. Even after walking away, I still felt Jackson’s black eyes watching me, causing me to shiver.
“This is my room,” Arlo opened the master bedroom, revealing nothing but his bed, a nightstand, and a dresser. I couldn’t hide the grimace that climbed on my face as I walked inside.
His brows pulled in as he took a look around and tried to guess my dislikes. Soon he gave up and asked, “What don’t you like about it?”
I smirked mirthlessly at his question and the white walls, “Well, first off, there’s hardly any furniture and no wall decor. You need something to liven up the place. Maybe put a desk in the corner,” I was already foolishly imagining myself organizing the room the way I wanted.
“I think it looks great this way. There’s not too much clutter on the walls, and it’s easy to clean for the housemaids.”
“No,” I shook my head with my nose scrunched up, “When you’re ready, come to The Grace and talk to my assistant Rachel. She’ll set you up with something nice made by yours truly,” I cockily gestured to myself.
“Alright, Collins,” He chuckled to himself, “So tell me, if this were your room, how would you fix it? Better yet, tell me how you would decorate the entire house.”
“Oh, thank goddess,” I sighed, relieved that I could give him my honest opinions, “Your house is beautiful, but there’s a lot of rooms that need some adjustments. And you’ve come to the right person because I have great taste. Oooh, let’s start with…” I took him by the arm and rambled on about his new and improved home.
I’d completely forgotten all about the past week as I excitingly walked through the house with him again. Although my advice was only to help him improve his home, my wolf continuously put thoughts in my mind about moving in here one day. Eventually, I had to block her out because her daydreaming was clouding my vision and I started added things I’d like to see in our home.
I didn’t miss how he fervently watched me and listened to every detail about the redecorating. A huge part of me was wondering what went on behind those captivating silver eyes.
“There is so much room in here. You could turn this into a man cave,” I said, staring out of the window that overlooked the lake. He took me to an empty room upstairs that didn’t make our tour the first time, “I wished I had this space in my house. This would be a perfect place to paint,” I commented.
“You shall have it then,” I could’ve sworn I heard him say under his breath. Before I could move on to the next room, he walked up behind me and placed both hands on the windowsill, trapping me in with his body.
I froze as he sniffed my hair and buried his face in the crook of my neck. The butterflies fluttered in my stomach as I felt his lips touch my skin. I cleared my throat attempting to shake the feelings away.
“Arlo,” I rasped, “What are you doing?”
My question was left unanswered, and he began sucking and nipping the most sensitive part of my neck. I wanted to push him away, but his wet tongue felt so good against my skin. When the tingling sensation became too much for my trembling hands, I placed them on the windowsill. Instead, my hands fell on top of his adding to the intensity of the sparks.
“Stop,” I moaned as he tortured my neck with wet kisses. The weakness in my voice encouraged him to spin me around and kiss me passionately. He stayed kissing me with his arms around my waist until I finally got the willpower to push him away.
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“Doing what?” He spoke huskily, leaning in to kiss me again. I moved my face, so he ended up kissing my cheek instead.
“I don’t understand you,” I huffed, angrily pushing him back. He was taken back by the roughness in my actions, but he needed to understand me, “You know we cannot be together, so why do you keep doing this to me. I don’t like feeling this pain. You’re not making this easier for us.”
His shoulders dropped as my eyes began to water.
“I don’t know why I even agreed to come. I should go,” My voice broke as I shouldered past him. He was quick to grab my wrist and plead, “No. Please stay. I want you here.”
“I… I’m sorry. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. It’s just harder for me to ignore the pull because I’m a hybrid,” Arlo explained, stepping closer to me. He slowly brought his hand up to wipe away the tears escaping my eyes, “I meant what I said earlier. I want you to be happy and accomplish everything you want in life, but I want this night to spend with you.”
“I’ll never know what it’s like to be the man you deserve, and for that, I am sorry. I wish things could be different, but I’m afraid mating with me will only bring you pain and suffering. After tonight, we can go our separate ways and pretend like this never happened, but for now, I want to enjoy my time with you before the bond is no more. So, I’m going to kiss you a lot tonight. Every chance I get before it’s too late.”
I was too stunned by his meaningful words to think of anything to say. Never in my existence would I have thought those words would come out of his mouth. A demon-wolf hybrid whom everyone labeled monstrous and vile.
As promised, he gently tucked a strand of my loose hair behind my ear and kissed me as if the sun would soon set the world on fire.
The next day I woke up feeling like a new person. I couldn’t help the smile that climbed my lips as I prepared for the big day. After our hot and heavy make-out sessions, Arlo and I had a nice, quiet dinner to ourselves.
I almost couldn’t believe he was the same man people warned me about. Call me naïve, but he seemed to be nothing like the cruel and hateful demon they made him out to be. He was genuine and kind, someone I could see myself being friends with for a long time.
Although the night was perfect, it didn’t change the fact that we needed to reject the bond soon. He was still a hybrid at the end of the day, and our kind didn’t belong together. It would be hard for our wolves, but Arlo and I agreed to stay in touch, hoping this would ease the pain. Just because we couldn’t be together doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, right?
As planned, the committee met up in the conference room again. Arlo didn’t know this, but I pulled some strings and got all the alphas on my side to vote for Blood Rose. I watched with a smile as Arlo and Kane rejoiced with their beta’s. The council officially declared Blood Rose as the new owner of the property.
Everything went smoothly, or so I foolishly thought.
“Thank you so much, Astrid. Our pack will be forever grateful to you,” Kane took me by surprise and embraced me. I pressed my lips in a thin line and held back the laughter as Arlo glared at the back of his brother’s head.
The meeting was at its end when a strange woman wearing a heavy black coat walked in, uninvited. Everyone was too engaged in a discussion to notice until she announced her presence.
“Are you the alpha of River Ash?” She asked abruptly, pointing an accusing finger at me. At this, everyone turned their attention to the woman standing in the doorway. I’d never seen her before, but it didn’t take me long to get familiar with her scent. She was a witch.
This eerie feeling burned my skin as she stared me down. I knew the feeling all too well. Something terrible was about to go down following her question. Sensing my discomfort, Arlo instinctively pulled me close to him and growled at the woman.
“Who the fuck are you?” I growled lowly, challenging her.
She smiled and reached for something under her cloak, “The last person you’re ever gonna see,” She snarled before cocking her rifle and pointing it at me.
The shot fired to the ceiling as Derek came from behind her and took control. Her blood splattered on the floor as he dragged his claws against her neck, pulling out her windpipe.
“Get down!” Kane shouted before more bullets came shattering through the windows.
Arlo quickly wrapped his arms around me and shoved us both to the ground. He pressed his body weight against mine like a protective blanket while the room erupted in chaos.
At that moment, I didn’t realize how this attack would begin the long journey ahead of me. But watching Arlo put my life before his, I knew from then I truly needed him. He was going to be the essential key to my survival.
a;n/ Please, please, please comment. Even if you feel like your comment doesn't matter, trust me it does. I want to know if you all like the flow of the story.